1 Corinthians 15:8-11
And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
This was the occasion of his conversion. The apostle has left on record a statement of the magnitude of the revolution (Philippians 3). How shall we account for it? The answers may all be reduced to three. That Paul's assertion that he had seen the risen Lord was —
I. A FALSEHOOD. This was the position taken by the Deists of the last century. But what motive could Paul have for asserting it? For even men of the feeblest intellects do not act without motives. But here is a man of powerful intellect persisting for thirty years in maintaining what he knew all the time to be an absolute lie. What was his motive then?
1. Was it hope of advancement? But to confess the Nazarene was the surest way to be defeated in every worldly ambition.
2. Was it love of rank, or wealth, or power, or ease? But to be a follower of the Galilean was to make morally certain toil, poverty, persecution, and death (1 Corinthians 4:9-13; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Thus on this theory of imposture we see a man of marvellous mental breadth and moral height deliberately inventing a useless, monstrous lie, and persistently adhering to it for a quarter of a century, conscious that his only reward was pauperism, disgrace, torture, martyrdom, everlasting damnation.
II. AN HALLUCINATION. This is the position of the modern philosophical sceptic, driven from the theory of imposture by its unspeakable absurdity. "Paul," it is said, "was a man of nervous, excitable organisation, and conscientious to the last degree. Coming into contact with the Christians, their arguments, their self-sacrifice, their patient behaviour under persecution, made a profound impression on his susceptible nature. Doubts began to arise, and being a Pharisee, he would have no difficulty with the doctrine of the resurrection. Then the thrilling question came, May not Jesus really have risen? The more he pondered it, the more it distressed him: the very conscientiousness which had made him a persecutor began to torture him with the thought that he might be fighting against God. Agonised by the possibility, in his inflamed imagination he fancied he saw in the heavens the form of the risen Jesus," etc. But survey the character of Paul. Susceptible, imaginative, impetuous, he certainly was, yet the man never lived who had his faculties more completely under control or used them with more sagacity. Mark the characteristics of a fanatic.
1. Looseness of reasoning and wildness of statement. But the man never lived who reasoned more accurately than Paul (Romans; Galatians, e.g.).
2. Utopian dreaming. But no man ever took broader, deeper, more sensible views of the problems of society, or discussed them with finer acumen than Paul: witness his exposition of the great law of edification (Romans 12.-15), and his discussion of cases of conscience (chaps. 6.-14).
3. Impatience, intolerance, obstinacy, recklessness. Paul was the antithesis of all this — witness his gentleness, patience, tolerance, magnanimity, humility, dignity, courtesy, deference to authority, repudiation of outward form, self-forgetfulness in his devotion to others.
4. Destructiveness. But the man never lived who was more absolutely a constructor of society than Paul. Next his Divine Master Himself, the apostle is the most controlling force of Christendom. If hallucination is capable of producing such characters as St. Paul, would God all men were flighty, all earth a Bedlam.
III. A FACT. This is the position of the Christian Church, and explains everything. It explains —
1. His sudden, radical revolution of character; the risen Lord had appeared to him and beckoned him up to a diviner life.
2. His cosmopolitan ministration (Acts 26:16-18).
3. His claim to be an apostle (chap. 1 Corinthians 9:1).
4. His passionate sense of fellowship with the slain and risen Lord (Galatians 2:20).
5. His career of self-sacrifice (2 Corinthians 4:5, 10).
6. His being persecuted in turn by those who had been his fellow-persecutors. Deny that Epiphany, and you have in the career of Paul the most inexplicable of character-problems. Admit that Epiphany, and all is clear.
(W. E. Boardman, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.